During April’s High-Performance HVAC Summit, I had the opportunity to sit down with Satoru Akama, president of the Goodman/Amana business unit of Daikin Industries. My mission: to talk about the industry, Goodman’s role in it, and the company’s strong focus on well-trained contractors.

Satoru Akama
Satoru Akama

Akama, who was born and raised in Japan, spent 31 of his 33 years in the HVAC Industry there. Much of that was with Daikin in sales and marketing. Among his most recent assignments – before transferring to Goodman – was being president and director of Tokyo Daikin Air Conditioning Co., one of Daikin’s largest sales companies.

“In that role,” Akama says through his interpreter, Tomoko Cable, “I was in very close contact with the contractors. I would visit installation sites with them. So I have a fairly good idea of how installers work and what they face on the front lines.”

Which is what made him the perfect choice for a new role after Daikin acquired Goodman in 2012.

“In this role, I focus on Goodman and Amana’s North American market,” he says. “Our priority is to bring a better value proposition to the HVAC industry. We wish to serve our customers on a different level. The idea is for them to know us, recognize us, and understand our intentions. We want to become instrumental in the growth and success of our partners and customers.”

When asked about the key challenge facing Goodman today, Akama didn’t even hesitate. “Manpower,” he exclaimed.”

“Even though we are investing heavily in technology and production, we are putting forth our utmost efforts to expand the channel partners and help them grow.

“The people in the field, the technicians and installers, that is where the action is. They are the ones who make things happen. The number of people doing those jobs is not keeping up with the growth of the HVAC Industry.

“Let’s face it,” Akama continues, “when our product leaves the factory, it is just an assembly of aluminum, steel, and copper. It doesn’t become a product until somebody in the field designs its interface with the building, installs it, maintains it, and repairs it. Then it becomes a product.

“Our HVAC contractors are our greatest partners and that is why we will continue to invest in them.” — Satoru Akama

“That is why we consider dealers, our HVAC contractors, as our greatest partners. We will continue investing in them so we can grow together.”

He adds that it is for this reason that Goodman seeks out partnerships with groups like the National Comfort Institute (NCI). He believes NCI’s focus on technical training is key to contractor success in the field.

“I want Goodman tied into that,” he says..

“I see this partnership as very strong,” he adds. “NCI’s curriculum and programs seem to be eagerly wanted and needed by contractors, even those who aren’t members. And we like that.

“The bottom line,” Akama concludes, “is that we have to be prepared for even more challenges in this industry. Not only with a product that meets demand, but also with the skills to get it installed and serviced properly.

“We have to provide our contractors with the skill-set and tools required. That is why we intend to intensify our training and we believe the partnership with NCI will only further grow stronger. Together we can tackle the changes that are coming to the North American marketplace.”